Jude Law turns on the caddish charm in Alfie, but there’s little sassiness or swing to this toothless update of the minor late-‘60s film that made Michael Caine a star. With his cheeky smile and chic wardrobe, Law has a lovably raffish magnetism that fits the iconic role, yet he’s cute when he should be nasty, playful when he should be slightly off-putting. Unlike Caine’s outstanding performance—which mingled macho swagger with subtle misogyny and unwarranted arrogance—Law makes his Alfie (who still addresses the camera whenever possible) too adorable, too nice, to elicit anything more than a yawn. And though this modern-day Alfie, who works as a NYC limo driver, carouses until the wee hours of the morning, his didactic comeuppance is so wearisomely preordained that there’s little fun to be had watching the lothario love, and then leave, a whole bevy of ladies (including Nia Long, Sienna Miller, Marisa Tomei, and Susan Sarandon). The original Alfie was notable for its then-radical critique of the late-‘60s sexual revolution, depicting both the hedonistic fun—and then sobering costs—of indulging in free love romps. Charles Shyer’s remake (written by Shyer and Elaine Pope) maintains the basic premise of its source material, yet by not imbuing its story with any larger significance, the film turns out to be merely a depiction of one shallow man’s realization that commitment is far preferable to unfulfilling one-night stands. Duh. With nothing less than this obvious moral guiding it, Alfie falls into a hopelessly repetitive cycle: Alfie has meaningless sex, suffers some unpleasant consequence, and then does it again until, after this song-and-dance has played out five or six times, the stud begins to realize the error of his ways. Shyer predictably tries to gussy his film up by using ‘60s-era split screens and a retro score highlighted by Mick Jagger’s gratingly clunky “Old Habits Die Hard.” But the embarrassing obviousness of the film’s Manhattan billboards (emblazoned with symbolic slogans like “Desire,” “Search,” and “Wish”), as well as the fact that Gedde Watanabe—20 years after starring as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles—remains stuck speaking broken English on-screen, is emblematic of this Alfie remake’s uninspired lack of evolution.
Unstable Color Palette Alert! Okay, so while the effect of Alfie's chic cinematography may be dizzying, it's more or less conveyed cleanly and accurately on this DVD edition. My eyes hurt most of the time, but the stupid freeze frames look great, as do some of the more normal-looking scenes (namely a rainy exterior scene between Jude Law and Nia Long). The audio track is disappointing: the Mick Jagger tunes come through loud and clear but dialogue sounds a little echo-y, and not just during scenes when Alfie is seducing some retirement-age honey from the hallway outside his flat.
Certainly Alfie's miniscule box office returns and middling reviews weren't enough to merit the red carpet treatment it gets here. First up: Not one, but two commentary tracks-one with director Charles Shyer and editor Padraic McKinley, a second with Shyer and producer Elaine Pope-notable for no other reason than Shyer's uncanny ability not to repeat himself on either one. Shyer, Padraic, cinematographer Ashley Rowe, and production designer Sophie Becher shoot the shit during a roundtable devoted to the character of Alfie. More enlightening than "The World of Alfie" is "The Women of Alfie" featurette, which compares the dowdy women from the 1966 film to the more independent creatures from this 2004 remake and in the process confirms that Shyer's version has lesser balls. Rounding out the disc is a scene deconstruction, some stupid dance footage from the set of the film, a "Let the Music In" featurette devoted to the music of the film, a series of deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, three galleries, and previews for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Suspect Zero, and Coach Carter.
Strictly for women who complain about being treated badly by men but don't care if they're as cute as Jude Law.